LOVE him or loathe him, there is no doubt that Donald Trump knows how to build an outstanding golf course. The controversial billionaire may have ruffled a few feathers on these shores, but his masterpiece on the Menie Estate is a work of art and truly one of the finest golf courses I have played.
However, my round at Trump’s track was just one element of a very special weekend trip to Aberdeen. After a journey north which only took two hours, it all began with lunch at the Malmaison Brasserie near the heart of the city. Malmaison has a dozen unique boutique hotels dotted throughout the UK, with the one in Aberdeen featuring a spa, private dining rooms, a wine-tasting cellar, Whisky Snug and the Chef’s Table. For my brief visit, though, it was all about the towering and glorious cheeseburger!
After lunch, I fulfilled a long-held ambition to enjoy a round at Royal Aberdeen after a friend had described the front nine as among the best set of links holes in the UK. He wasn’t far wrong. The course is a quintessential links, guarded by dunes and tight fairways and is a tough but wholly enjoyable challenge.
Even the first tee is something of a white-knuckle ride. With a howling wind and the club’s members looking on through the large windows as they munched on their lunch, the opening drive is a true test of a golfer’s mettle. I was just happy to hit the ball reasonably straight – especially when one of my playing partners failed to get beyond the ladies tee!
The course is a joy to play. For me, the two par-5s on the opening half of the course – hole 2, ‘Pool’ and hole 6 ‘Scotston’ – were the highlights because they were the epitome of risk and reward.
After a gruelling day on the links, drinks and a hearty meal were welcome, and our evening destination certainly featured the wow factor. Set on Royal Deeside against a backdrop of 11 acres of beautiful wooded grounds, the Marcliffe Hotel and Spa is a haven of luxury and relaxation.
Upon arrival, we were spirited downstairs to the private Billiards Room for drinks and a game of snooker, followed by a glorious steak that was cooked to perfection.
Meldrum House Golf Club is a classic parkland track featuring tricky doglegs, well-placed trees, lush fairways and a smattering of attractive, but daunting ponds and rivers. A different set of skills are required, and golfers are compelled to use their finest course management skills.
After golf and a brilliant burger, we were spirited away for a VIP tour of the Glen Garioch Distillery.
With the rigours of the day complete, we enjoyed dinner at our hotel for the weekend, the handily placed Thistle Aberdeen Altens Hotel, and we could not have been better looked after by the genuinely caring staff.
We enjoyed four fine courses and wine, with the highlight being the braised shin of beef, topped with a red wine onion gravy with roasted potato and root vegetables.
The Altens is situated to the south of Aberdeen, which makes it the ideal location for visitors travelling up from the Capital.
To the final day of the trip and the course that golfers and non-golfers the world over have been talking about for months. It’s fair to say that the Trump course certainly holds its own against the distinguished and grand member of the north-east family, Royal Aberdeen. The course layout at Menie is a sight to behold, with the holes almost like a computer game in the way they have been crafted.
Many courses have a signature hole, and while this could be the case at Trump (the 14th or 18th certainly stand out), every single hole has a distinguishing feature and its own story and test.
I have played many of Scotland’s big-name courses and I can report that Trump’s terrific track is a worthy addition to the pantheon of great golfing institutions, and is one of many reasons to take a trip north to discover Aberdeen.
• David Findlay stayed at the Thistle Aberdeen Altens Hotel, rooms from £70 per night, dinner £20 (0871-376 9002; www.thistle.com). Golf at Royal Aberdeen £120 ( 01224 702571; www.royalaberdeengolf.com). Dinner at The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa Restaurant, dinner £40-£45 per head (01224 861000; www.marcliffe.com). Golf at Meldrum House Golf Club £85/£105 (01651 872294, www.meldrumhouse.com). Golf at Trump International Golf Links, £195/£215 (01358 743300; www.trumpgolfscotland.com). Glen Garioch VIP Whisky Tour, £40 (01651 873450; www.glengarioch.com).